Rich Gannon's appreciation for football is obvious. Despite retiring in 2004 after a broken neck, he still follows the game closely and gives his commentary on Sirius NFL Radio and other media outlets.
Gannon, who played for the Vikings from 1987-92, reached Super Bowl XXXVII with the Oakland Raiders after the 2002 season, when he threw for more than 4,600 yards and won the league's MVP award. The following is Gannon's analysis from a phone interview after one question about the keys for the Vikings and Saints:
You look at the game this past weekend, I thought the big deal in this game was going to be two things that really jumped out at me. I thought the Vikings' ability to take advantage of home field, the crowd noise and get pressure on Tony Romo. Of course, they got six sacks. I was really impressed with that defensive line. I thought Ray Edwards had a huge game. The ability to get pressure on the quarterback and kind of get Romo moving around a little bit was huge.
I thought on the other side of it, I really thought it was going to be key for Adrian Peterson to rush for 100 yards. Now, as it turned out, you get a couple of big throws by Brett (Favre) to Sidney (Rice) and you get some turnovers and things like that, it wasn't as significant in terms of the contributions from Adrian Peterson. But Adrian Peterson's production the last six weeks to me is a major concern.
I think he's averaging 66 yards a game over the last six games or something like that (even worse, only 60 yards a game). You look at him this past weekend, I think he carried the ball 26 times for 63 yards or something ridiculous. He averaged 2.4 a carry. They are not as consistent in terms of the running game, in terms of their blocking, in terms of getting this guy going. (It) is really important as they go down there and play a team like New Orleans.
Now all of the sudden they are on the other end of it. They have to deal with the crowd noise. They have to deal with the pass rush. They have to deal with all that. I think the big thing is they have to run the ball. You look at when Dallas went down there three or four weeks ago, they went down there and really got after them pretty good. They went down there and ran the ball pretty well and kept it in manageable situations. If get in situations down there like third-and-long to third-and-7 plus, it gets really hard.
I think (the Saints) are getting healthy now in their secondary and they're getting a little bit of a pass rush now and it could make things difficult for Favre. I think that's a big story – offensively anyway – their ability to run the ball with consistency and get Adrian up around that 100-yard mark.
And of course with Brett (Favre) to continue to do what he's done all year and take care of the football. Turnovers are certainly magnified in playoffs and it's hard to win when you put the ball on the ground.
Then on the flip side, I think the defense has to find a way to get to Drew Brees and it ain't going to be easy because this guy, he's special now. I think this guy is a very special player and he's an elite player at his position and they can come at you so many different ways.
You've got the Reggie Bush factor. He's back up and running and he looks like he's healthy and they're getting him some touches. Of course, you've got to deal with him in the kicking game as well in terms of special teams and punting. Are you going to kick it to him, kick it out of bounds? How are you going to deal with that?
But their secondary has to play well. I think Cedric Griffin has to have a big day and certainly Antoine Winfield. Obviously there is concern with him and where he's at health-wise. They are going to need big day out of the secondary. All three units are going to have to play well. They're going to have to get good pass rush, and of course the perimeter people – the corners and the safeties – are going to have to play well because these guys will throw it 35 times.
Rich Gannon's Vikings-Saints keys, concerns
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